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previous: aron I've been trying to figure out for ... -- 7/20/2000 2:19 AM View Thread

Re: cheap vs. more expensive?

7/20/2000 4:27 PM
Mark Hammer
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Re: cheap vs. more expensive?
Aside from the more obvious issues of workmanship, and things like finishing the frets, etc., I think one of the things that distinguishes more from less expensive guitars is the selection of wood. To say that a guitar is alder or ash is simply to acknowledge the species of tree the wood came from, and says nothing about the grade of wood, density, grain consistency, aging, chemical treatment, etc.  
 
I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the higher price of some guitars came from being constructed of select wood, selected by someone with extensive knowledge and a discerning eye and hand. It may be the same type of wood and overall design, but it's *wood*, baby, and wood possesses resonance. Resonance, in turn, is a property of that specific piece of wood, more than the species of wood.  
 
My conversion to this view came from a 1982 visit to the old Parsons Street Gibson factory in Kalamazoo (now the origin of Heritage guitars). The place positively reeked wood. The floors were wood, the walls and shelves were wood, and it was impossible to take a step anywhere without being profoundly aware of the characteristics of the wood you were stepping on, pulling, touching, etc. The shop foreman encouraged me to lightly hold one of those mega$ Award archtops and breath towards the strings. They sustained for what seemed like 10 seconds, simply in response to my breath.  
 
If you look through Julius Bellson's history of Gibson (I should scan and PDF my copy one of these days), you realize that place lived and breathed wood in every respect. Bet you didn't know that Gibson made a line of children's wooden pulltoys way back when. In any event, this is not to toot Gibson's horn, but rather to say that we underestimate the role that wood treatment, wood selection and wood matching plays in making more responsive instruments. The people who make them don't go on about it, but their tacit knowledge of wood properties clearly informs the decisions they make when producing an instrument from scratch, and it is the accessing of that knowledge you pay for in addition to their time in production.

 
Replies:
Ed Rembold and don't forget the nut-pl... -- 7/21/2000 1:32 AM